Saturday, October 17, 2020

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Reimagining College Football



Readers' Comments



Football Update Stories

Last Saturday (Oct. 17) The Gazette published a column of mine, reproduced below. In it I offer a sampling of examples of how removing college football from the academy and operating it as a for-profit corporation would benefit every stakeholder (such as, university presidents, faculty, athletic directors, coaches, players, NFL, fans, advertisers, casinos and sports gambling).

Little did I imagine that this past week's news would provide even more evidence supporting this approach. Here are some stories -- and links to them if you want more details. They include:
o additional football related "diversity, equity, and inclusion" charges and $20 million lawsuit, now associated with the University, at a time when the UI is dealing with its own similar charges and defections.

o a major additional source of, and focus on, COVID-19 concerns when Iowa's failures in dealing with the pandemic make it among the most dangerous states in the country and the University has not been among the best in dealing with it.

o an association of the University of Iowa with the major politically divisive kurfuffle involving football players kneeling during the National Anthem at ball games

o University favoritism of athletes over other students, including a $230,000 bill for their hotel accomodations
Jeff Johnson, "Former Iowa football players threaten lawsuit, demand $20 million, firing of Gary Barta, Kirk and Brian Ferentz; University of Iowa rejects the demands," The Gazette
(online), October 18, 2020 ("Eight former University of Iowa football players are demanding monetary compensation from the school and the firing of Hawkeyes head coach Kirk Ferentz, offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz and athletics director Gary Barta for intentional race discrimination, it was learned Sunday.")
and see, Jeff Johnson, "Lawyer of 8 former Iowa football players asking for money and dismissals of Ferentzes and Barta responds; Iowa said it will not cede to his demands,"
The Gazette (online), October 19, 2020 (noting, "Iowa conducted an independent investigation of its football program over the summer through a Kansas City law firm, after many former Black Iowa players went on social media and expressed their negative experiences at the school, especially with strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle.")

Jeff Johnson, "Purdue football coach Jeff Brohm out for game against Iowa after testing positive for COVID-19,"
The Gazette (online), October 19, 2020 "[Purdue head football coach Jeff] Brohm is the eighth FBS [Football Bowl Subdivision] head coach to contract COVID-19, joining Kansas’ Les Miles, Florida’s Dan Mullen, Florida State’s Mike Norvell, Toledo’s Jason Candle, Arkansas State’s Blake Anderson, UCLA’s Chip Kelly and Arizona’s Kevin Sumlin. . . . The Big Ten’s rules call for any player testing positive to be out of action for 21 days, while coaches are subject to regular CDC recommendations, which are for a 10-day self isolation.")

Jeff Johnson, "Iowa football players will have the option to kneel or stand for national anthem,"
The Gazette (online), October 20, 2020; in print edition as "Hawks Have a Say," October 23, 2020, p. B1 ("Some Iowa Hawkeyes football players will kneel for the national anthem Saturday at Purdue to call attention to racial inequality and social justice. . . . Head coach Kirk Ferentz confirmed that players will have the option to kneel or stand for the anthem. The team’s leadership group met with him three different times to talk about it. The football program, of course, was the subject of an independent investigation to look into accusations by former and current players of racial inequalities and bullying during Ferentz’s 22-year tenure as head coach. Strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle lost his job, albeit with a $1.1-million settlement, and the investigation found that program rules 'perpetuated racial or cultural biases and diminished the value of cultural diversity.'”)

Jeff Johnson, "With Iowa football season finally here, daily testing and 'doing the right thing' can help it endure,"
The Gazette (online), October 23, 2020; in print edition as "COVID Football; Hawks return to field needing to do 'the right thing,'" October 24, 2020, p. B1 ("This is just the beginning of what . . . every player, coach and other personnel within the Iowa football program do on a daily basis during this surreal and delayed COVID-19 season. . . . This is nine straight weeks of games, with no byes. At least that’s what everyone hopes. COVID-19 might have other ideas. No one knows how this actually will turn out. No one.")

Erin Jordan, "University of Iowa athletics spends $230K on hotel stays for coronavirus-positive student-athletes; Other University of Iowa students who test positive stay in residence halls,"
The Gazette, Oct. 10, 2020, print edition p. A1 ("The University of Iowa Athletic Department has spent more than $230,000 since June putting about 180 COVID-19-positive student-athletes up in hotel rooms and paying for their food. . . . The UI paid another $40,983 on per diem payments for student-athlete food while they were in hotel isolation.)

Treat College Football Like Big Business
Nicholas Johnson
The Gazette, October 17, 2020, p. A6

In our capitalist, entertain-me society football will not, and need not, disappear. It just needs to stop being the muscular tail that wags the academic dog.

In 1906, when college football was killing 15 to 20 players a year, and permanently disabling 150 more, President Teddy Roosevelt told college presidents he’d outlaw the sport unless they made it safer. Reluctantly, they agreed to require helmets and organized what became today’s NCAA.

In 1939, University of Chicago President Robert Hutchins considered the school’s football team a distraction, scorned colleges that received more publicity from sports than education and research, and simply abolished football.

Today, few politically perceptive critics of football advocate the death penalty. So long as parents and players know the health risks, millionaires willingly play for billionaires in stadiums purchased by taxpayers, and fans know football’s cost in time and money, there will be football. [Photo credit: John Schultz/Quad City Times, Oct. 21, 2012.]

From preschool through college the goal is lifelong learning in a physically fit body. It’s what we’ve called “physical education” and the Greeks called “body, mind and spirit.”

College sports such as tennis, golf and swimming can provide benefits into one’s eighties. They’re as historically fundamental to curriculum as any classroom, lab, or studio course and should be funded as such.

College football is neither a student sport nor a career path. The NFL takes 1.6 percent of college players for an average stay of 3.3 years. It is a business, big billions business. In 40 states college football coaches are the highest paid public employees.

In a nation with obesity on the rise, cutting students’ lifetime sports so a farm club can send its ablest players through a cattle chute to the NFL is indefensible.

Moreover, college football creates conflicts of interest for everyone. University presidents find it easier to capitulate to coaches than fight. Athletic directors must rationalize taking advertising and skybox dollars from the alcohol and gambling industries. Coaches must encourage players’ in-class performance, while coaches’ multi-million-dollar salaries turn on players’ on-field performance. Non-tenured professors fear retribution for flunking players. Players who do seek a college education must choose between lab time and scheduled practice. [Photo credit: Nicholas Johnson, Riverside gambling casino ad on Kinnick Stadium big-screen display.]

There are many possible reforms. But what’s the win-win that preserves football while getting the elephant off the campus?

How about what the University did earlier this year when it contracted away its power plant – a perfectly legitimate university function -- to a for-profit, private utility?

Remove the football program from the University; recognize it as the part of the big money entertainment industry that it is. Let it lease the Kinnick Stadium, related land and structures, the “Hawkeyes” name, and associated assets at going commercial rates.

This farm club could pay its coach, and players, whatever its corporate board wished and employees could negotiate – eliminating the state’s embarrassment of the coach as highest paid public employee.

Remove the requirement players pretend to be students – while providing players who wanted to be students spring-semester-only and other accommodations. Get out from under other NCAA restrictions.

Iowa’s not the only football-challenged school. It shouldn’t be difficult to find enough more to make a league – and maybe even affiliate with the NFL, like baseball’s farm clubs.

Any lesser “accommodation” with college football will only perpetuate the conflicts.
Nicholas Johnson, a former FCC commissioner and sports law professor, provides more on this and other subjects at Contact:


President Teddy Roosevelt. Weiler, et al, Sports and the Law, p. 747.

Robert Hutchins, University of Chicago.

College football players as NFL draftees. 1.6%

Average NFL career 3.3 years.

College football revenue. Top 100 teams 2014-15 $5.6 billion.

College coaches highest paid public employees in 40 states.

Overweight & obese. (United States, 36.5% of adults are obese. Another 32.5 percent of American adults are overweight.)

UI’s power plant. “Iowa Facilities Management, Power Plant,” March 11, 2020,


Posted to public on Facebook, with name:

Seems like a sensible solution to a long standing problem.
Steven Hulme, FB, Oct. 17, 7:37 AM

All good points!
Becky Jacobsen Strahl, FB, Oct. 17, 7:37 AM

FOOTBALL - This is an interesting perspective from Nicholas Johnson examining how to get better outcomes for sports programs and academic programs.
Resources for Life, FB, Oct. 17, 8:37 AM

This will definitely give you food for thought!!
Julie Johnson, FB, Oct 24, 3:40 PM

Posted to FromDC2Iowa, with readers' name:

This analysis is right on point. "College" athletics (in particular football and basketball) have not related to a University's primary mission for many years. The primary mission of a University is to educate. Not train for a career, not provide bread and circuses, not provide an "economic" engine for a town or a region -- the mission is to train minds and create a whole person to function in society. Does a football team "create spirit" for a University? Sure. But the proposed solution would continue to "create spirit" much in the way that, for example, Premier Football Teams create community spirit. And would allow the University to focus on its primary mission.
Prophet of Doom, Oct. 17, 7:49 AM

Thank you Mr. Johnson. It's a great idea. In my opinion football should not be played by any individual in organized sports until they are at least 21 years old. Any responsible, caring parent should not let their child subject themselves to the injuries that football causes, Sometimes permanet injuries for the rest of their lives.

Locally, we had a high school student who was a quadriplegic for the rest his life from injuries at at school football game. Sad. Very sad.

However, I purpose an alternative sport to football. School maintanence teams. Think of the poosibilities. There is many ways this can go. Start 'em in middle school. Or, if they were in band or chorus, everyone plays.
Iowa Tom, Oct. 19, 4:12 PM

Emails sent to
(senders' names omitted because email was a non-public communication for which use of name was neither requested nor granted.)

Subject: Genius
GENIUS solution for divorcing football from higher education. Thank you!!!
Oct. 17, 10:34 AM

Subject: Your editorial today
You are 100% on the mark regarding your editorial on college football. It has gotten totally out of hand. I used to have season tickets as a student in the 70’s and a faculty in the 80’s but the corporate takeover of college football has totally turned me off. I always enjoy your editorials.
Oct. 17, 3:54 PM

Subject: Column "Treat college football like..."
I always learn something when I read one of your columns! I had not known of Teddy Roosevelt's ultimatum which led to the creation of the NCAA. I must commend you once again for not exempting the sacred cows when you "speak truth to power." Not only that, but you sign off with your real name and email address rather than using the distancing effect of the nom de plume...I mention this only because (I believe) there was a counter-example in the only letter to the editor on the same page as your guest column; methinks that the writer who called Chuck Grassley a "good egg" was not given the name "May Day" at birth. Judging by the gist of the letter, I doubt that the author was aligning themselves with the rather leftist implications that the holiday by that name has assumed over the years; judging by current polling trends, I rather suspect that the author was evincing a (Freudian ?) general call of distress. (A distress which might be best understood by those in East Iowa City who only have one yard sign in their front yard - "Phil Hemmingway for Supervisor - Republican" -- which may be signalling an orientation regarding other races which must remain veiled). But I digress.

Keep up the good work and stay well,

In '65 I was 17 - runnin' on empty...
Oct. 18, 2:03 PM

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Wednesday, October 07, 2020

Life Before Death

The purpose of this blog post is to provide some context regarding the video of a Nicholas Johnson talk in 1971 you may find of current relevance and interest.

Why? There are a number of possible reasons. It touches on questions you may be asking yourself about your own life -- past and future. It provides a contemporaneous insight into the 1960s and '70s -- and the Federal Communications Commission during those years -- from the perspective of an FCC commissioner. It discusses electric cars and why men should share household tasks. It reminds us that presidential attacks on the media are nothing new, and puts in context the current effort of the FCC and broadcasters to permit even greater accumulations of media power as consistent with the statutory standard of "public interest." It explores the impact that television (and today's "social media") can have in shaping our politics and government, peace and war, children's education and values, and the products with which we surround ourselves. Finally, I hope you'll find the stories, extemporaneous stand-up lines, and brief readings simply entertaining television. [Photo credit: tomislav medak,]

To see the video in the context of the entire Nicholas Johnson YouTube site, click here:, scroll down to the row of videos labeled "Presentations - 1970-1979," and click on the one titled "Life Before Death, Grinnell."

If you want to skip that step, and the "Backgroud Basics," below, and go directly to the video, click here:

Background Basics
Here are the truncated textual basics associated with the video as they appear on the YouTube page (
"Tactics for Survival in the Corporate State: Life, Love and Other Stuff," Grinnell College, Grinnell, Iowa, April 1, 1971, Broadcast on Iowa Educational Broadcast Network, April 12, 1971. The lecture runs an hour and ten minutes. The Q&A, which is about 21 minutes, begins at 1:10:38.

An earlier version was presented November 5, 1970, as "The Barbara Weinstock Lecture on the Morals of Trade" ("Life Before Death in the Corporate State"), Pauley Ballroom, University of California, Berkeley, published in booklet form by the University in 1971.

Some of the material in both of these largely extemporaneous talks ultimately found its way into Johnson's book, Test Pattern for Living (Bantam, January 1, 1972; 2nd ed. June 2013),

With thanks to the University of Iowa Library Archives for the raw source material, and Gregory Johnson,, Iowa City, for the assembling of this single video and associated technical support.
Contents/Index for Video
If you have not yet watched the video, what follows below will be of little use. It breaks down the video into seven relatively arbitrary sections, noting starting and finishing times. If you have watched it, and would like to find and replay an item, or share it with a friend, this material will provide reminders, take on meaning for you, and help speed your search.

0:00:08-0:05:00 -- Opening; stand-up remarks; introduction/overview of topics (Tommy Smothers and FCC, others, future of Grinnell program; walk on the moon; garbage in environment and our heads; "Tactics for Survival in the Corporate State: Life, Love and Other Stuff;" antenna tower painting vs. programming)

0:05:00-0:12:20 -- Introduction to impact of TV technology (omnipresent; impact technology generally; 9 years of life watching TV; impact programming as well as commercials; examples; male cosmetics; impact on race relations, violence; anti-smoking commercials, public exposure to truth; need for broader study)

0:12:21-0:18:21 -- Range of societal concerns (TV as component; problems predicted; upswings in mental illness, narcotics addicts, youth suicides, alcoholism; all feel pressures, artists and neurotics first to notice; country music; passive, unalive)

0:18:22-0:30:25 -- Corporate TV relation to societal concerns (time-consuming, plus: principle source of information, culture, moral values, political values; almost exclusively used for merchandizing, consumption, consumer manipulation; corporate environmental impact vs. impact on brains; TV owned and programmed by big business; all-purpose commercial; nutrition; why original dramas cancelled; P&G policy)

0:30:26-0:47:26 -- What is television selling? What are the consequences? (conspicuous consumption; examples; personal identity from products; "drugs" (and other products) are the answer to life's problems; commercials are persuasive, programming has no impact; consequence: "corporate interlock;" electric cars; commercial for anything selling everything else; TV impact on women; oppression of the system leads to rotten goals)

0:47:27-1:10:48 -- The Antidote (surrounded by multiple media, people, who've bought TV's pitch; individuals living empty lives; West Virginia woods; our potential, what a "whole life" can be: love, daily "creative time," relation to nature, productive activity (men sharing household tasks); how bring into life within urban corporate state; baking soda; commuting by bicycle; simple, older machines; less you have the better you feel; why Holiday Inn bought the woods; religions, philosophers, psychiatrists share these insights; citizens groups and media reform; cable TV; make your own TV programs)

1:10:49-1:30:17/48 -- Q&A (Pacifica, other audience-supported broadcasting; commercial broadcasters in business of supplying listeners and viewers to advertisers; President Nixon, Pentagon, FCC attempt to forbid music with "drug lyrics;" "For Whom Does Bell Toil?"; anti-cigarette smoking commercials; public primarily depends on TV news and soap operas for information; political attacks on journalism)

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Saturday, September 26, 2020



(This is an explanatory link from a mysterious Facebook post, Sept. 26, 2020.)

Iowa River fish swam inside the former Hancher Auditorium’s orchestra pit, during the 2008 flood.

Thirty granite fish are now swimming outside the new Hancher Auditorium, in the “Wellspring” art installation unveiled Friday morning to a drumroll provided by University of Iowa Marching Band percussionist Jenna Springer.

Artist Colette Hosmer joined the ceremony via video from her Santa Fe, N.M., home.
For "the rest of the story," this wonderful, fishy story, see Diana Nollen, "Wellspring' of art at Hancher as granite fish sculptures make their debut," The Gazette, Sept. 26, 2020, p. A3,

Photo credit:

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Saturday, September 12, 2020

A Post-Pandemic Proposal

A Nation Can Do Well By Doing Good
Nicholas Johnson

The Gazette, September 12, 2020, p. A6

This year brought challenges from an uncontrolled global pandemic and resulting economic collapse, enhanced awareness of racial injustice, political partisanship, and serious derecho damage.

What it also brought was an outpouring of helpers for those in need. [Photo Credit: Jimmy Panetta,]

It was as if an entire community suddenly chose to follow the Biblical command that we provide the needy stranger with food, water, shelter, clothing, healthcare – and chainsaws. The text comes from Matthew 25, with similar sentiments in many religions.

But before the derecho, before COVID-19, there were many in America – including Iowa communities – who were, and still are, food and water insecure, homeless or in unhealthy housing, needing winter clothing, out of work, without reliable transportation, and unable to afford healthcare, let alone childcare. [Photo credit: "Migrant Mother," Library of Congress, wikimedia.]

Why is it that the national compassion that blows into town with a derecho’s winds is soon gone with the wind? More precisely – because local helpers and their organizations remain – why do elected officials fail to see that “we all do better when we ALL do better”? Could it be the poor’s reluctance to make those $2,800 campaign contributions?

Robert Kennedy famously quoted George Bernard Shaw’s line, “Some men see things as they are and say 'Why'? I dream things that never were and say 'Why Not"?"

Why not indeed?

Rather than speculate, let’s address the usual argument: “We can’t afford it.” Clearly that’s not true. There are billions or trillions for the banks, tax cuts for the one percent, defense-related appropriations greater than the next ten nations combined, and boosts to businesses during our virus-crippled economy.

In our capitalist society religious and moral arguments are seldom sufficiently persuasive. Change is unlikely unless it will simultaneously further enrich the politically powerful. Progress requires we tie our reform to the tail of greed if we want to see it run off down the street.

We must prove to the powerful how they can still do well by doing good.

Exhibit One. Consumer spending is 70 percent of Gross Domestic Product. This summer, “trickle up” proved a more effective economic boost than “trickle down.” President Richard Nixon supported a “negative income tax.” Presidential candidate Andrew Yang called it “universal basic income.” As conservative economist Milton Friedman once explained it to me, “there’s nothing wrong with poverty than money won’t cure.”

Exhibit Two. Providing humane treatment can be cheaper. RAND studied Los Angeles’ program moving 3,500 homeless from streets to healthy housing. It saved the county $20 million – returning $1.20 for every dollar spent. Universal healthcare would level the playing field for businesses competing with foreign companies that don’t have to embed employees’ health costs in their prices.

Exhibit Three. Skilled work force. It is cheaper to put someone in a public university ($5,580 to $17,470) than prison ($33,274 to $69,355). Tuition-free community college, available in 17 states, could reduce Iowa’s skilled worker shortage while saving business the cost of finding and training workers.

Exhibit Four. Capitalism can’t provide everyone jobs. In 1933 2.5 million enrolled in the Civilian Conservation Corps; 46,000 in Iowa helped build our state parks. There are 250 million over 18 and plenty jobs to do. The more employed the greater will be consumer spending and GDP.

Spread the word. We really can all do better by doing better for all.
Nicholas Johnson, former Co-director, Institute for Health, Behavior and Environmental Policy, is the author of Columns of Democracy. Contact:
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Matthew 25. "'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'
The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'"

$2,800 political contribution. "During the current two-year election cycle the limit for contributions by individuals to federal candidates for President, the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives has increased to $2,800 per election." "FEC announces 2019–2020 campaign cycle contribution limits," Federal Election Commission, February 7, 2019

Dream things that never were. "Robert F. Kennedy," Wikipedia,, note 312 ("Some men see things as they are and say why. I dream things that never were and say why not.")

Defense-related appropriations. "U.S. defense spending may now exceed that of the next 13 nations combined." Lawrence J. Korb, "The Pentagon’s Fiscal Year 2021 Budget More Than Meets U.S. National Security Needs," Foreign Policy and Security, Center for American Progress, May 6, 2020,

Consumer spending. "Falling consumer spending has major effects on overall GDP growth, as it accounts for roughly 68 percent of GDP." "An In-Depth Look at COVID-19’s Early Effects on Consumer Spending and GDP," Council of Economic Advisers, White House, April 29, 2020

Richard Nixon "Negative Income Tax." "In 1971, President Richard Nixon proposed a negative income tax as the centerpiece of his welfare reform program ...." "Negative Income Tax," Wikipedia,

Yang's "Universal Basic Income." Andrew Yang,

RAND, LA homeless. Doug Irving, "Supportive Housing Reduces Homelessness—and Lowers Health Care Costs by Millions," Rand, June 27, 2018,

Prison costs. “Among the 45 states that provided data (representing 1.29 million of the 1.33 million total people incarcerated in all 50 state prison systems), the total cost per inmate averaged $33,274 and ranged from a low of $14,780 in Alabama to a high of $69,355 in New York. “The Price of Prisons; Prison Spending in 2015,” Vera Institute of Justice,

State college costs. "In 2019-20, average published tuition and fee prices for in-state students at public four-year institutions range from $5,580 in Wyoming and $6,350 in Florida to $16,920 in New Hampshire and $17,470 in Vermont." "2019-20 Published In-State Tuition and Fees at Public Four-Year Institutions by State," College Board,

Free community college. (list of 17 named states) Robert Farrington, “These States Offer Tuition-Free Community College,” Forbes, March 25, 2020,

CCC. “Eight Historical CCC Parks in Iowa,” DNR News Releases, March 31, 2015,

U.S. population over 18. Demographics of the United States, Wikipedia,

The (University of Iowa’s) Institute for Health, Behavior and Environmental Policy was in operation from 1990 through 1993, during which time I served as co-director with UI epidemiologist Richard Remington.

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Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Reynolds Forbids More Than 100 Tests Per Day

By way of introduction to this story, it's useful to provide at least one example of how Iowa's governor presided over gross under-reporting of COVID-19 infections. The Dubuque story, below, is what she moved on to do (curtail the actual testing itself) after mere manipulation of data proved politically inadequate.
The first confirmed coronavirus outbreak at an Iowa meatpacking plant was far more severe than previously known, with more than twice as many workers becoming infected than the state Department of Public Health told the public, newly released records show.

The department announced at a May 5 news conference that 221 employees at the Tyson Foods pork processing plant in Columbus Junction had tested positive for COVID-19.

But days earlier, Tyson officials told Iowa workplace safety regulators during an inspection that 522 plant employees had been infected ....
Ryan J. Foley, "Coronavirus outbreak at Iowa pork plant was larger than state reported," Associated Press/Des Moines Register, July 22, 2020

”Gov. Kim Reynolds orders reduced coronavirus testing at Dubuque site; Reynolds cuts number of COVID-19 tests to 100 per day as cases rise,” AP/The Gazette, July 22, 2020, p. A3

(If AP or The Gazette would like this post to be deleted from this blog just email me at

DUBUQUE — Coronavirus testing will be reduced to only 100 tests per day at a Test Iowa site in Dubuque, despite a sharp increase in cases in Dubuque County.

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds’ office ordered the site to reduce its testing, Dubuque officials announced Monday. The site will be opened only from 6 a.m. to 7 a.m. Tuesday through Thursday. The site had been testing 400 to 550 people per day, the Dubuque Telegraph Herald reported.

U.S. Rep. Abby Finkenauer, whose district includes Dubuque County, wrote a letter to Reynolds on Tuesday criticizing the decision and asking the governor for further explanation.

“This month, Dubuque County has seen its most staggering case counts of the entire pandemic, and one of the highest days was just last Thursday,” Finkenauer said in the letter. “Now is not the time to be ramping testing down anywhere in our state — in fact, testing is needed now more than ever to identify and contain the spread of the virus.”

Reynolds’ spokesman, Pat Garrett, said in an email to media Monday that the governor ordered the test reduction at Dubuque “to ensure their process is in line with others across the state of Iowa. We want to maintain consistency and high quality performance across all Test Iowa sites.”

Garrett did not respond to follow-up questions about what processes were being questioned at Dubuque. He also did not say how long the tests would be limited or whether other Test Iowa sites have been placed on similar restrictions, the Des Moines Register reported.

Daily coronavirus cases have more than doubled in Dubuque County since June, according to state data. At least 23 people in the county have died from COVID-19.

Sunday, July 19, 2020

When Everything Needs Fixing

When you've got to choose
Any way you look at it you lose.

-- Simon & Garfunkel, "Mrs. Robinson"

From slavery to segregation to incarceration
Ibram X. Kendi, the author of How to Be an Antiracist, says of Michelle Alexander's The New Jim Crow that her "bestseller struck the spark that would eventually light the fire of Black Lives Matter." The Chronicle of Higher Education says it is one of the "Most Influential Books of the Last 20 Years." Others have reacted with words and phrases such as "devastating," "stunning," "invaluable," and "explosive."

The recent protests were triggered by, and focused on, policing practices, such as the knee on the neck of George Floyd that resulted in Floyd's murder. Outrage was expressed by protesters in many countries around the world. Reforms have followed pressures both inside and outside institutions from city councils and police departments to corporations' cultures and hiring practices, NASCAR's ban on Confederate flags, removal of statues, and renaming military bases.

The Black Lives Matter movement has been a huge, significant force in raising everyone's awareness of America's 400-year history of racist oppression of Blacks. So long as its leadership, and millions of participants, remain active it can continue to be.

But it no way diminishes BLM's accomplishments to recognize that the racist "cancer" infects virtually every aspect of all Americans' lives -- those who benefit from the systemic racism (while believing that they are not "racist"), and those who suffer from it.

I mention Michelle Alexander's book in this context, not only because it belongs on the reading list of every aspiring anti-racist, but because of the way it puts police practices in a context of the entire judicial system -- disproportionate number of Blacks involved in stops, searches, arrests, prosecutions, incarceration, lengthy sentences, along with the biases of prosecutors and judges -- up to and including the U.S. Supreme Court. She supports her assertions with frightening statistics -- including the death penalty research of my late friend and beloved UI College of Law faculty colleague David Baldus.

And I want to make a further point by including here just one of her many stories from the 325 pages of text (Chapter 3, p. 120). (Her fulsome notes cite a Frontline (PBS) program and Angela Davis' Arbitrary Justice as sources. Notes, p. 343.)
Imagine you are Erma Faye Stewart, a thirty-year-old, single African-American mother of two who was arrested as part of a drug sweep in Hearne,Texas. All but one of the people arrested were African-American. You are innocent.

After a week in jail, you have no one to care for your two small children and are eager to get home. Your court appointed attorney urges you to plead guilty to a drug distribution charge, saying the prosecutor has offered probation. You refuse, steadfastly proclaiming your innocence.

Finally, after almost a month in jail, you decide to plead guilty so you can return home to your children. Unwilling to risk a trial and years of imprisonment, you are sentenced to 10 years probation and ordered to pay $1000 in fines, as well as court and probation costs.

You are also now branded a drug felon. You are no longer eligible for food stamps; you may be discriminated against in employment; you cannot vote for at least 12 years; and you are about to be evicted from public housing. Once homeless, your children will be taken from you and put in foster care. . . .

At trial, the judge finds that the entire sweep was based on the testimony of a single informant who lied to the prosecution. You, however, are still branded a drug felon, homeless, and desperate to regain custody of your children.
I reproduce the story here for five reasons. (1) It is compelling in its own right; those with even one ounce of empathy cannot help but be moved. (2) It powerfully makes the point that, innocent (as she was) or guilty, as I open this blog post: "When you've got to choose/Any way you look at it you lose." How many innocent Blacks, like Ms. Stewart, end up pleading "guilty" because the consequences of that choice are better than the alternative? (3) As itemized in the next to last paragraph above, to go through the justice system can result in consequences as, and often more, serious than the fines or prison time.

But my most important reasons for reproducing it is as a lead in to an observation and a proposal.

(4) The observation involves the web of obstacles confronting, especially, those who are both Black and poor. It's not just police practices, or even the racial bias throughout the entire justice system. As I title this post, "Everything Needs Fixing." Everything is interconnected and reinforced for the Black and poor. Your mother may have been without the benefit of quality pre-natal care. If your pre-K and K-12 education was inadequate, even if you could afford to pay the tuition while not working full time, an additional community college education -- let alone four-year college or university -- may be beyond your ability. If so, you're left with little choice beyond the income and status of low or minimum wage jobs. And if you were unlucky enough to have been among the disproportionate number of poor Blacks put in the "kindergarten to prison" pipeline during your K-12 years you carry the added burden of a "felon" during your job search. Financially, you have no inheritance, investments, equity in a home, savings, or ability to borrow (at rates below pay-day loan rates). Without a car, transportation to a job (if you have one) or job interviews (if you don't) is an expensive hassle. If you have an unreliable junker, the day you miss work is the day you may be fired.

I could go on with examples, but you get the idea. Every disadvantage is connected to all the others. "Any way you look at it you lose." "Everything Needs Fixing."

(5) Many of the world's religions, including Christianity, have some equivalent of the "do unto others" admonition. Sadly, many find the preaching easier than the practice. And so advocates of social justice must revert to economic arguments -- that they are really just proposing "doing well by doing good."

That was how housing for the homeless was sold to the doubters. It turned out to be cheaper than insisting homeless continue to sleep on the sidewalks.

I suspect the same would be true for efforts to improve the lives of everyone in the bottom 40% of our socio-economic caste system -- including all races and nationalities. I suspect that it really is true that "We all do better when we ALL do better." As with the global eradication of smallpox, and our current need to eradicate every COVID-19 case on Earth, we will not see the full fruition of an anti-racial culture until we clean every dark and dusty corner containing elements of our systemic racism.

To work toward that goal I believe an essential element is the gathering of the hundreds of thousands of stories from Blacks in all walks of life (such as that of Erma Faye Stewart, above) -- ideally in a single, online location. We need to encourage this reporting, make it easy, and anonymous when desired, for Blacks to report the daily indignities and hurdles they confront.

For change to occur, whites need to know -- emotionally as well as intellectually -- what it's like to live as a Black person in America's 21st Century, and then get about the job of making the necessary reforms. (In the course of doing this they will be improving the lives of the white poor as well.) The distribution of Blacks' experiences is a job for the mass media, book publishers, television and film producers. That's what it took to reduce the health hazards of tobacco. This will be more difficult. But it is possible. It's up to all of us -- and will benefit all of us.

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Saturday, July 11, 2020

Biggest Thrill in Johnson County

What's "the Biggest Thrill of All" in Johnson County?

According to Merle Haggard ("Okie From Muskogee") Muskogee is:

A place where even squares can have a ball.
We still wave Old Glory down at the courthouse,
And white lightning's still the biggest thrill of all.
In Muskogee, Oklahoma, USA.
[I'm Proud to be an] "Okie From Muskogee"

To which, of course, the west coast hippies felt they had to responded with:

We don't throw our beer cans on the highway
We don't slight a man because he's black
We don't spill our oil out in the ocean
'Cause we love birds and fish too much for that

And I'm proud to be a hippie from Olema
Where we're friendly to the squares and all the straights
We still take in strangers if they're Haggard
In Olema, California, Planet Earth
"Hippie from Olema"

I've always found just being in the Olema area kind of thrilling. Apparently the hippie lyricists either assumed that was so obvious to everyone it didn't require mention, or whatever thrilled Okies probably would be more disruptive than supportive of Olema's aura of peace, love and bliss.

All of which brings us back to The People's Republic of Johnson County, and what might I be thinking is its "greatest thrill of all."

Want to guess?

Give up?

Why it's the outflow from the Coralville Reservoir after heavy rains. Take it from an old, retired former U.S. Maritime Administrator, this is our landlocked equivalent of taking a ship through the North Atlantic in the wintertime, as pictured.

Exhibit #1, which I'm about to show you, is a video taken yesterday, July 10. Why is the date relevant? Because if you're the kind of Johnson County citizen who recognizes her or his responsibility for knowing how much water the Iowa River is bringing through Iowa City, and how fast it is coming, you check the United States Geological Survey report each morning to find out. You know that number can change daily, even hourly within a day.

And what was the number yesterday? 9,000. Nine thousand what you ask? It's 9,000 cubic feet a second, I reply. And just how much is that, you persist?

As you can imagine, it is difficult to keep and measure water that is cube-shaped. But that's why, as with COVID-19, we must rely on the scientists at the USGS for our answer. And if you would ask one of them they would be happy to tell you that if you had their powers to make a one-foot by one-foot by one-foot cube of water you would discover, when you measured it, that you had 7.49 gallons of water.

Thus, if you had the patience to create 9,000 cubic feet of water you would have (quickly multiplying 7.49 by 9,000) 67,410 gallons. And how much is that, you ask? Well, if you and those living with you use about 100 gallons a day (check your water bill, it's probably around that much each month) that would be 36,500 gallons a year.

In other words, every second yesterday the amount of water flowing out of the Coralville Reservoir into the Iowa River was almost twice the amount of water you use in a year.

Here is a video of what that looked like yesterday afternoon for 38 seconds chosen at random. So how many gallons was that. Right!!! See, I told you it wasn't complicated. It was 2,561,580 gallons. That's what you got, didn't you? Isn't this fun? Doesn't it remind you of your cruise in the North Atlantic last winter? Isn't it exciting? Don't you have to agree it really is Johnson County's "greatest thrill of all"?

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